The size of the task was evident from day one. Among a dozen players to have left last summer were Adam Matthews, Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra, Chris Burke and the loanees Seyi Olofinjana, Jay Emmanuel Thomas and of course, Cardiff’s favourite son, Craig Bellamy. Seven months on and the Bluebirds have defied the odds. They are comfortably placed in the top six of the Championship and poised to appear in a first ever Carling Cup final. Little wonder, that Mackay was last week handed a 3½-year contract extension by the club’s Malaysian owners. “I was delighted and proud to have been offered the job as manager of this football club and even more delighted to have been asked to commit to the club for a longer period,” said Mackay. “I often think back to that first day when David (Kerslake) and I stood in front of that small group of players. Yes, we knew the situation when we came in and we understood there was a lot of hard work in front of us. But it was still a daunting task. “There was an infrastructure to build and we had six weeks before we were playing West Ham, at Upton Park, live on television.” Mackay spent his every waking moment constructing a squad. Now, they are back at Wembley for the fourth time in five years. “What pleased me most, was that we were able to integrate people quickly. Players take time to get to know each other, but we had to fast-track things. The amount of work they put in is why we are in the position we find ourselves.” Don Cowie, Joe Mason, Ben Turner, Rudy Gestede, Andrew Taylor and Aron Gunnarsson came in as Mackay dealt with the exodus of players in the only way he knows. “You meet the challenge head on,” he said. “Having said that, if you were to have asked me seven months ago, if I honestly thought we would be in a play-off place and a Carling Cup final, I would have said no. “However, here we are and there is no reason why we can’t win. Yes, I think Liverpool would win nine of any 10 games they played against us. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the one.” Now, that would be a story.